Tag Archives: Jeanette White

As if we needed more evidence that Jeanette White doesn’t get it…

State Sen. Jeanette White (D-Stockholm Syndrome) penned an opinion column in the Brattleboro Observer last week concerning the Senate’s timid, occasional, mincing steps toward some kind of ethics commission. We’ll get to the self-serving (and self-pitying) rhetoric in a moment; but first, she shared a detail about the proposed State Ethics Commission that I hadn’t seen before.

The duties of the commission/director will be to give advisory opinions on question of potential ethical issues to anyone who requests. These will be kept confidential.

(Ahem.)

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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State Senate trying to Norquist ethics reform

Vermont’s Most Sclerotic Deliberative Body has been taking its time with a proposal to set up a state Ethics Commission. Much more time than they took with legalizing marijuana, and probably longer than they’ll take with the frickin’ budget.

Why the slow play? Well, the Senate’s point person on ethics reform makes it abundantly clear.

Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham and chairwoman of the Government Operations Committee, said, “Because the press keeps saying that we’re the only state without an ethics commission and clearly we have something to hide … I don’t really believe that.”

Credit to the Associated Press’ Dave Gram for capturing that entry into the Quote of the Year competition.

Jeezum Crow. The Senator in charge of ethics reform doesn’t believe ethics reform is necessary. She blames the media for fomenting “a lack of faith in government officials.”

Methinks the good Senator has been in Montpelier too long. She’s been so deep in the system for so long, she’s lost all perspective.

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Welcome aboard, Governor

Seemingly out of nowhere today, Governor Shumlin threw his support behind the idea of an independent state Ethics Commission. The idea’s gotten a lot of push in recent months, thanks to a string of public-sector embarrassments including (but not limited to) Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s squicky relationships with big national law firms, Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell’s landing a state job after he’d lobbied for its creation, the revelation that longtime lawmaker Norm McAllister is (allegedly) a felony-class sleazeball, and most recently, Brent Raymond’s overnight transformation from EB-5 regulator to EB-5 project manager.

So congratulations, Governor, for finally seeing the bright, glaring, blinding light.

His spokesperson Scott Coriell claims, according to VTDigger, that “Wednesday was the first time, to his knowledge, that the governor had been asked whether he supports such a commission.”

That might be true in the narrowest of senses. But until now, Shumlin has been down on the general idea of tougher ethics standards, insisting that we’re all good Vermonters, we all know each other, and we’re above this sort of tawdry behavior. But hey, better late than never.

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Connect the dots, and reveal a black hat

The Senate Government Operations Committee, last seen saying yes to the Fourteenth Star, held a hearing Friday on a bill that would increase disclosure requirements for ad campaigns meant to influence legislative debate.

The bill would require disclosure of public-policy advertising over $1,000 within 48 hours. Under current law, disclosure is only required three times a year: January 25, April 25, and July 25. The April report is the biggie, since it covers the bulk of a legislative session. And it comes at the very end of the session, which means the disclosure is almost useless for finding out who’s spending money to influence which piece of legislation.

The Associated Press’ Wilson Ring was there, and reports that one of the top lobbyists in Montpelier, Andrew MacLean, testified against the idea.

Ring failed, however, to deliver the context. Which I will now do. You’re welcome.

MacLean makes a darn fine living representing numerous business interests. He told the committee that the 48-hour disclosure requirement would be difficult for lobbyists to meet.

Which is, pardon my French, pure bullshit.

The same requirement is already placed on political candidates in the last 45 days of a campaign season. If candidates can meet the requirement, surely a well-endowed lobbying firm can do so.

MacLean also efforted the First Amendment argument —  “the proposal… could infringe on free speech rights” — which is also bullshit. Disclosure imposes no limits on speech.

His alternative? “… change your disclosure dates and maybe add one or two.”

Uh-huh. And why, you might ask, is Mr. MacLean so anxious to avoid prompt disclosure? Committee chair Jeanette White gave us a hint:

[White] said the proposal grew out of a case in which a lot of money was spent trying to get members of the House to vote against an issue. She did not say what the issue was.

Well, I’ll tell you what the issue was. It was the 2013 attempt to impose a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The beverage and retail industries mounted an all-out effort to kill the bill, spending more than $600,000 in the first three months of 2013. We didn’t find that out until April 25, 2013, by which time the beverage tax was dead.

The chief local lobbyist for that effort? Andrew MacLean.

Fast forward to 2015, when the legislature is once again considering a beverage tax, and Andrew MacLean is once again at the forefront of a very expensive advertising and lobbying campaign against the bill.

Naturally, he prefers disclosure to be as infrequent and untimely as possible.

MacLean’s testimony was motivated by blatant self-interest. I hope the committee sees through that, and proceeds with a reasonable effort to add some transparency to the flow of money through our politics.

…et puer parvulus minabit eos.

(If you have any issues with the Latin above, take it up with Google Translate.) 

At the risk of losing my street cred, I have to admit being edified and inspired by an event at the Statehouse today.

The occasion: The Senate Government Operations Committee taking up a bill to establish Stella Quarta Decima Fulgeat as an alternate motto for the state of Vermont.

This proposal has famously been the target of unedifying and uninspiring commentary, mistakenly conflating Latin with Latino, criticizing it as a waste of time, and wrongly complaining that the new motto would supplant “Freedom and Unity.”

Angela Kubicke and the motto bill's sponsor Sen. Joe Benning, with the broad shoulders and flowing mane of Seven Days' Paul "Party in the Back" Heintz in the middle.

Angela Kubicke and the motto bill’s sponsor Sen. Joe Benning, with the broad shoulders and flowing mane of Seven Days’ Paul “Party in the Back” Heintz in the middle.

The hearing was attended by roughly five dozen middle- and high-school students of Latin, along with teachers, parents, and three Classicists from the University of Vermont. The hearing’s central figure was 15-year-old Angela Kubicke, who had the original idea for the Latin motto and, with her teacher and others, came up with the exact wording. The first three words, translated as “The Fourteenth Star,” appeared on the first coin minted in the 1780s by the then-independent Vermont. “Fulgeat,” the verb, completes the sentence “May the fourteenth star shine brightly.” Kubicke and her teacher, Ray Starling, gave a thorough account of the historical rationale for their proposal.

One of the other witnesses almost stole the show. If you were casting the part of a tenured professor of classical languages, you might just see Robert Rodgers as a gift of the gods. Slightly tousled gray hair, well-trimmed gray beard, glasses, precise in speech to the point of pedantry, his testimony was perched delicately on the border between entertaining and aggravating. As committee chair Jeanette White admitted afterward, “I forgot that professors are used to talking in 45-minute increments.” Professor Rodgers went nowhere near that long, but with the chair’s forbearance he blithely ignored the two-minute time limit per speaker. It was a rare opportunity for a Classicist to speak to a lay audience on a subject dear to his heart, and he was (in his own reserved way) happy as a pig in slop.

Still, he was an effective if nerdy (and wordy) witness, praising “Fulgeat” as “a felicitous choice for a verb,” parsing its contextual meanings and citing its use by the Roman poet Virgil.

Three students from Lamoille Union High School also spoke to the committee, defending Latin as a foundation of modern science, architecture, music, and Western languages. At the end, committee member Chris Bray commended Kubicke and her fellow speakers for the “depth of thought” behind the motto.

And then came the vote: FIve in favor, zero opposed. The bill goes on to the full Senate on Friday.

For the many who complained about the bill being a “waste of time,” you should have been there. Everyone — Senators, professors, teachers, and students — were fully engaged in the process and the issue. It took less than an hour all told, and it was a great learning experience for all. I’ve got nothing cynical to say about it in the least.

Elections: If it’s broke, don’t fix it

Our Esteemed Leaders seem to be in the process of backpedaling away from a reform measure on the grounds that the problem hasn’t caused widespread mayhem just yet. In this case, it’s our antiquated way of deciding a gubernatorial election when no single candidate wins a majority. The problem slithered out of the dank recesses of Vermont history when Governor Shumlin barely eked out a plurality win over Scott Milne, and Milne refused to concede. Technically, we didn’t have a governor-elect until a couple hours before his inauguration.

Reminds me of my previous post about vaccines. Well, it’s a common theme in the Legislature. I call it Grandfather’s Lightbulb Syndrome, after the classic joke:

“How many Vermonters does it take to change a light bulb?”

“Change it? That was my grandfather’s light bulb!”

To which I would add, “And nobody’s fallen down the staircase yet!”

Several possible changes to our system have been proposed; all are simple, and any one would prevent future occurrences of a losing candidate fighting on or, worst case, a losing candidate actually winning election in the Legislature. Hey, it’s happened before.

So what will lawmakers do about it?  Sad to say, my money’s on Jack Diddly Squat. Because on issue after issue, they respond to potential problems by saying, “Why lock the barn door? We haven’t lost any horses yet.”

Think I’m too cynical? Take a look at this.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Government Operations said Wednesday she’s not so sure Vermont should amend its constitution to limit the legislature’s role in selecting statewide officeholders.

“We are more seriously looking at whether we need to have a change,” Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham) said.

Well, Senator, what exactly would convince you that we need to have a change? An actual Constitutional crisis instead of a near-miss?

That’s bad enough, but there’s also this:

After the hearing, White said she remained “confused” about her own position.

“Part of me says it’s fine just the way it is,” she said. “It seems to work. People are elected.”

White’s committee has now held three hearings on the issue. And she’s “confused”? Jeezus H. Christ.

Don’t blame me, Senator, when your horse gets stolen or someone falls down the staircase.

Shumlin may have lost the center, but the worst damage was on his left

Much of the post-election analysis has concluded that Governor Shumlin’s extremely narrow apparent victory is a repudiation of his more progressive policies (esp. health care) and that, in response, he’ll have to move toward the center.

There’s some truth in that. On health care, for instance, I really believe he’s got to get Vermont Health Connect up and running before he can expect anybody to support any kind of single-payer plan.

It'll take more than  free food to win back the base.

It’ll take more than free food to win back the base.

However, there’s ample evidence in the unofficial election returns for a very different analysis: the Governor would have sailed to an easy re-election if he hadn’t lost the left wing. There were sizable numbers of liberal voters who (1) stayed home or (2) cast protest votes for Scott Milne, Dan Feliciano, or a write-in. (They felt safe doing so because Milne was such a weak candidate, ha ha, that nobody felt the need to cast a defensive vote for Shumlin.)

As for #1, turnout hit an all-time record low. ‘Nuff said. Conservative voters were motivated, liberal voters were uninspired. The rest of this post will explore #2.

Previously, I cited the vast difference between Shumlin’s vote total and Congressman Peter Welch’s. In the final unofficial results (posted Saturday on the Secretary of State’s website), Welch received a total of 123,349 votes.

Shumlin got 89,509.

That’s a difference of nearly 34,000 votes. To put it another way, more than one-quarter of all Welch voters did not vote for Peter Shumlin.

That’s a stunning figure. But wait, there’s more.

I checked Shumlin’s totals in four Democrat-friendly state Senate districts: Bennington, Windham, Orange, and Washington.

In the Bennington district, Gov. Shumlin got 6,522 votes. He badly trailed Dem incumbent Dick Sears, who got 7,965 votes. That’s over 1400 Sears supporters who did not vote for the Governor.

In the solid blue Windham Senate district, the Governor’s home turf, he was outpolled by Sen. Jeanette White, the top vote-getter for two Senate seats, by a margin of 7777 to 6758.

More than a thousand votes lost, in the county he’s lived almost his entire life.

In Orange County’s Senate district, Shumlin trailed incumbent Democrat Mark MacDonald by 561 votes — MacDonald’s 3797 to Shumlin’s 3236. Which was virtually identical to MacDonald’s margin of victory over his Republican opponent, Bob Frenier.

In fact, if Frenier had equalled Scott Milne’s total and MacDonald had equalled Shumlin’s, the Senate seat would have flipped to the Republicans. So a sizeable number of Orange County voters split their tickets, opting for the Milne/MacDonald combo platter.

In the three-seat Washington County district, Shumlin drew 9,173 votes. That’s almost 2,000 behind top Democrat Ann Cummings (11,167) and 1300 behind Prog/Dem Anthony Pollina (10,474).

Reminder: The Prog/Dem Pollina was, by far, the most liberal of the Senatorial candidates in Washington County. He was believed to be vulnerable to a strong challenge from Republican Pat McDonald. In the end, Pollina was re-elected by a substantial margin.

Governor Shumlin trailed Anthony Pollina, ardent supporter of single-payer health care and higher taxes on the wealthy, by 1300 votes. Those numbers undercut the dominant narrative, that this election’s message was to go slow and move to the center. Pollina ain’t moving to nobody’s center.

Add those four districts, and Governor Shumlin lost more than 5,000 votes compared to the top Democratic Senate candidates.

In short, if the Governor had simply held onto his base, nobody would be talking about a Scott Milne squeaker.

In addition to all these numbers, I can tell you that every liberal I’ve heard from since Tuesday has told me stories about diehard Democratic voters who simply could not bring themselves to vote for Shumlin. That’s anecdotal evidence, but there’s a lot of it around.

I’m sure the Governor lost plenty of votes in the center. But he shouldn’t take this election as a mandate to shy away from progressive policies, and Republicans should be cautious about claiming 2014 as a mandate for them. This election was less about ideology than it was about disappointment in and distrust of Governor Shumlin.

The left wing of the Democratic Party has had its doubts about Shumlin from day one. He was seen as more of an opportunist, a triangulator, than other Democratic contenders in 2010. He placated the left by touting his opposition to Vermont Yankee and promising an all-out push for single-payer health care. During his two terms in office, he has done little to earn the respect of the left, and done much to forfeit their trust. His 2013 push to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit was seen as a betrayal on the left, as was his continual opposition to any sort of tax hikes on top earners. The awful performance of Vermont Health Connect is a mortal threat to single-payer.

If he wants to make a comeback, establish a legacy for his governorship, and perhaps try to run for a Congressional seat one day, he would be well advised to make peace with Vermont liberals instead of turning himself into Phil Scott Lite.

p.s. Yeah, I know, there are lots of liberals who already see him as Phil Scott Lite. Particularly “lite” on the perceived honesty and integrity of our Lieutenant Governor. 

Fear and Loathing in the State Senate

Really well-reported piece by VTDigger’s Laura Krantz on the fact that more Democratic state senators have endorsed Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott than his Prog/Dem challenger Dean Corren. (Current tally is 7 Scott, 5 Corren, and 9 hiding under their desks. Including fellow Prog/Dem Tim Ashe, who should be ashamed of himself.)

The thesis, as provided by Prog/Dem Dave Zuckerman, is that Senators are afraid to cross the entrenched Senate leadership, particularly the three-man Committee on Committees. (And I do mean “man.”) The Committee has one pivotal function: making committee assignments, including chairmanships. The Committee, by law, consists of (1) the Lieutenant Governor, (2) the Senate President Pro Tem, and (3) one other Senator, chosen by the entire Senate.

The Three Wise Guys, plus Peter Galbraith's good side. Photo borrowed from the collection of Paul "Shutterbug" Heintz.

The Three Wise Guys, plus Peter Galbraith’s good side. Photo borrowed from the collection of Paul “Shutterbug” Heintz.

#1 is Phil Scott. #2 is John Campbell, a self-described Democrat who loudly supports Scott. #3 is the apparently untouchable Dick Mazza, a nominal Democrat who openly supports Scott, hosted a Scott fundraiser, and made a hefty donation to Scott’s campaign. (And who, earlier this week, delivered a gratuitous slap to Governor Shumlin at a ceremonial event. The balls on that guy.)

As Zuckerman put it:

“The maneuvering for committee assignments is a big deal … and all three members have publicly supported Scott,” Zuckerman said. One senator told him he or she was not endorsing anyone because of committee assignments, Zuckerman said.

Loyal readers (Hi, Mom) know that I’m no fan of the State Senate’s entrenched power structure and its impenetrable air of clubbiness. I am particularly not a fan of John Campbell, who brings a unique combination of arrogance and passivity to the role.

But boy-o-boy, he’s full of fire when it comes to Dean Corren, who maybe spat in Campbell’s oatmeal in the State House cafeteria.

Campbell called Corren a “one-issue candidate” and disingenuous for seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor even though he had hard feelings for Democrats when he served in the House from 1993 to 2000.

Yeah, well, Corren has campaigned strongly and consistently on at least FOUR issues — health care, climate change, renewable energy, and encouraging entrepreneurialism — so Campbell is wrong there. As for things Corren said more than 15 years ago, Jeezum, can’t a guy learn from his mistakes?  Nobody batted an eye over Vince Illuzzi’s campaign for Attorney General, in spite of an extremely spotty ethics record in the 80s and 90s.

Back to the main point, which is fear of being banished to the Committee on Mumblety-Peg and Other Childhood Pastimes. No one is admitting to a fear-based endorsement (or non-endorsement), but several Senators offered Krantz some truly unconvincing reasons for their stands on the Lite-Gov race.

Ginny Lyons is not endorsing. She says it’s because she “believes in a two-party system.”

“As much as we support the Progressive concepts and ideas, when you’ve got three people running it splits parties up,” she said.

Yeah, except in this race, you don’t HAVE three people running. In fact, you have a candidate who won the Democratic primary fair and square, and won the endorsement of the state party committee, which you’d think would be as interested as Ginny Lyons in maintaining Democratic primacy.

Of course, Lyons has first-hand experience with the Committee on Committees: she chaired the Natural Resources Committee for an entire decade, but was removed without explanation in 2012 in favor of Good Old Boy Bob Hartwell. Now she’d like to win back her former post, but she’ll have to earn the favor of Campbell, Mazzas and Scott to do so.

Michael Sirotkin, the Senate’s junior member, begged off because he is “too fixated on his own race to endorse.” As if it would occupy more than five minutes to make an endorsement.

The same excuse sounds even more transparent coming from Jeanette “I’m focusing on my race” White, whose re-election is a virtual certainty because there are no Republicans or Progressives on the ballot in her district. 

Profiles in courage.

Oh, and Peter “The Slummin’ Solon” Galbraith, still firing shots on his way out the door, slammed Corren for not being a Democrat (as though Galbraith was any kind of example of party loyalty):

“If you’re not going to run as a Democrat, you’re not going to get the Democratic endorsement,” he said.

Well, actually, Pete, he IS running as a Democrat, and he DID get the Democratic endorsement. He just didn’t get yours. And besides, didn’t you just endorse Republican Roger Allbee for a Democratic nomination in your district? That didn’t seem to bother you.

As a liberal who wants to see small-P progressive policies,and wants the Democrats to use their well-earned political muscle to move the state to the left (just as George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan used their muscle to move the nation to the right), the State Senate’s combination of stasis, timidity, and self-satisfaction makes me ill.

There are plenty of good people in that chamber, I know for a fact. But the institution as a whole needs to be turned upside down and shaken until all the junk falls out. We should begin by dumping Dick Mazza from the Committee on Committees, and while we’re at it, finding a new President Pro Tem.

 

 

Looks like Windham County has dodged a Republicrat bullet.

 

Might be jumping the gun, but as of this writing, with 20 of 24 precincts reporting, “The Artful Roger” Allbee is trailing in his bid to snatch one of Windham County’s two Democratic State Senate nominations.

Currently, incumbent Jeanette White has a substantial lead, with 40% of the vote. Safe to say she’s carried through. Democrat Becca Balint is second with 28%, and the longtime Republican Allbee, he of the unfortunate references to “colored” folks and those with “alternative preferences,” has 22%. Joan Bowman is trailing badly, with less than 9%.

It’d take a dramatic reversal for Allbee to edge out Balint. In an extremely low-turnout election, she has 1251 votes to Allbee’s 1020. To win, he’d have to substantially outpace Balint in the few remaining precincts. (Townshend, where he lives, has already reported, so no help there.

So, at the risk of premature blogulation, allow me to bid a fond farewell to The Artful Roger’s attempt to be a kinda-sorta Democrat. And congratulations to the voters of Windham County for choosing two real, actual Democrats for State Senate.

Oh, and allow me to send a big fat “HA HA!” to The Slummin’ Solon, Peter Galbraith, who tried to handpick Allbee as his successor. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass, Petey.

 

Yes, it got worse for Vermont Republicans. Except Phil.

Notes and musings from the August 18 campaign finance report filings…

Governor Shumlin is in cruise control. His campaign raised another $67,000 this time, and spent only $11,000. He has almost $1.13 million in the bank.

Scott Milne continues to falter. He raised $22,370 this time, compared to $20,000 last time. That pace won’t get him anywhere near his stated goal of $200,000. And his total was again buoyed considerably by the Boies family: $2K from a Christopher Boies, $2K from daddy Boies’ law firm, and $2K from an LLC whose address is the same as the daddy Boies law firm. For those keeping track, the collective Boieses have donated $16,000 of Milne’s total of $42K. He also raised $2K from Altour International, a high-end travel agency based in New York. His biggest in-state donor was the Wayside Restaurant, which donated $2K. That’s a lot of ham and eggs.

Milne spent $28,000 in the past month, of which more than $18K went to campaign manager Brent Burns’ consulting firm.

— The alleged Republican upstart, Libertarian Dan Feliciano, reported raising $13,000. Sounds decent, but $10K of that came from Dan himself. He had only a handful of other donors — notably getting $200 from Republican Treasurer Mark “Little Snell” Snelling. There’s no sign of a Feliciano bandwagon to be found in his finance report.

— The Vermont Republican Party is still in the doldrums, raising $2,420 in the past month.

— The only Republican doing really well is Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott who, challenged by Progressive Dean Corren’s public financing, put his fundraising operation into high gear and pulled in $52,000 in the past month. He didn’t spend a whole lot, and has $120,000 in cash on hand. He got plenty of cash from construction firms (his line of work) and from some of his turncoat friends in the Senate Democratic majority — a total of $2500 from Dick and Dorothy Mazza, and $200 from “Bobby Star,” who I believe is actually State Sen. Bobby Starr.

Scott’s doing well for himself, but to judge from the latest reports, he ain’t lifting a finger for his beloved VTGOP.

Vermonters First, which spent a million Broughton Bucks in 2012, is still in hibernation. Raised zero, spent $25 for a bank account.

— Lenore Broughton did open her checkbook for a few Republican candidates and gave $2K to the Common Sense Leadership PAC. Said PAC didn’t raise any other money but managed to spend $3500 on consultants. Namely $2K to Shayne Spence, a staffer at the Ethan Allen Institute, and $1500 to Elizabeth Metraux who is apparently the PR person for Vermont PBS.

— Republicrat Senate hopeful Roger Allbee pulled in a decent $4760 this time around for a grand total of $6K. His total take included a nice $1,000 donation from soon-to-be-ex-Senator Peter Galbraith. The Slummin’ Solon, who has publicly endorsed Allbee, was nonetheless chosen to moderate one of the four Windham County Democratic Senatorial candidate forums, a curious move to be sure. (During that debate, he reportedly got into an argument with fellow Senator Jeanette White. Not very statesmanlike or diplomatic, Petey.)

— Celebrity tidbit: The aforementioned Senator White can brag of a $100 donation from Mr. Tom Bodett. Leavin’ the light on for ya!